Take a stroll down nearly any New York City street during the day and you’ll run into them: countless delivery vans, taking up space. Clearly, one of the biggest contributors to traffic congestion is routine deliveries. But increasingly, cities are considering different options for cargo deliveries. And the one that is receiving the most attention recently involves the use of cargo bikes.
Currently, cargo bikes are used in a number of major cities around the globe. Paris, London, and Dublin are just a few of the more well-known urban areas that use cargo bicycles. Recently, however, New York also announced a 6-month trial period to use cargo bikes in Manhattan for package deliveries. Amazon, UPS, and DHL will each introduce their own fleet of cargo bicycles with plans to expand in the future. But despite many clear advantages to using cargo bikes, not everyone is happy with the decision. For this reason, it’s worthwhile taking a bold look at cargo bikes and their role in transportation systems of the future.
What Are Cargo Bikes?
All of us are familiar with modern delivery vehicles that involve vans and box trucks. Some of these are now even hybrid or fully electric. But even the more energy-efficient options of these vehicles are cumbersome and take up a great deal of space. For this reason, many have turned to cargo bicycle alternatives as a means to make final destination deliveries. Cargo bikes can also come in different shapes and sizes, but all offer greater maneuverability and take up less space. And the majority of cargo bicycles are actually electric-assist in nature, which makes them ideal for cargo deliveries.
Like other bicycles, cargo bikes require its driver to pedal, but pedaling assists the electric motor in acceleration. Likewise, most cargo bikes are three-wheeled with the cargo load located in a structure in the rear. However, despite these differences, cargo bicycles are still able to utilize bike lanes. This allows them the ability to access destinations quicker in areas where traffic is heavily congested or jammed. Because of these features, it’s not surprising that dense urban settings appreciate that these delivery options have significant benefits.
What Do Critics of Cargo Bicycles Say?
Of course, not everyone has been in favor of allowing cargo bikes in major cities. In New York, cargo bicycles will now be able to occupy loading zones as well as wider sidewalks. For delivery trucks and cargo vans, that means more competition for parking spaces. At the same time, cargo bikes will not be required to pay meters or acquire a specific license to enjoy these parking privileges. This naturally has many businesses rather upset, especially when they must pay hundreds of dollars in city fees and taxes. Not everything can be delivered by a cargo bike, and companies delivering these items want some concessions.
At the current time, cities like New York have yet to work out these issues. With online shopping deliveries increasing for the holiday season, the push was to get cargo bikes on the road quickly. Therefore, it is likely that the next several months will serve as a trial period to identify these types of complaints. But while some complaints may deserve attention, others will not. Cost and parking disincentives encourage businesses to think about adopting cargo bikes as part of its delivery fleet. And many good reasons exist that support cities from standing behind new cargo bicycle policies.
Cargo Bikes Deliver a Lot to the Table
As noted, cargo bicycles offer greater flexibility while taking up smaller amounts of space. This reduces traffic congestion, which is often one of the more significant transportation issues in urban centers. But this is only one of their benefits that major cities appreciate. A major benefit is that both manual and electric cargo bikes produce no greenhouse gas emissions. This has notable advantages for big cities and companies trying to reduce their carbon footprint. At the same time, electric cargo bicycles use renewable energy sources. This has obvious additional benefits in relation to concerns about climate change.
Other advantages include pedestrian and passenger safety, which is also quite concerning for many large cities. Cargo bikes, unlike large trucks, are much less likely to cause accidents. And if one occurs, the chance of serious injury or death is quite small. In contrast, larger trucks caused nearly half of all cycling deaths in New York last year. Lastly, cargo bicycles are often more efficient in both time and infrastructure use. Because they can use bike lanes, cargo bikes increase the utilization of these transportation access routes. Thus, not only can cargo bikes get to final destinations faster, but they do so without needing new roadways.
Cargo Bikes Are a No-Brainer for Major Cities
For the reasons cited, it’s clear that cargo bikes offer large urban centers a great solution to end-destination delivery systems. Though minor issues may need to be addressed through policies, the advantages far outweigh the potential setbacks. But for cargo bicycle systems to work, some key characteristics are usually present. Specifically, cities must have an established bicycle infrastructure network as well as city leader support. Likewise, cargo bikes work best in dense urban centers and where high-volume deliveries are required. With these caveats, the employment of cargo bicycles is a smart decision that will serve cities and companies well.